How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Washington: 3 Things You Must Know

Washington adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in Washington?

To adopt a stepchild in Washington, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.

adopting a stepchild in Washington

For a number of reasons, a stepparent in Washington could want to adopt their stepchild.

  • Adoption gives the stepparent the same legal rights and obligations as a parent, including the power to decide how the child will be raised and the duty to pay for the child’s financial needs.
  • Adoption can give a child security and stability, especially if that youngster has already been through the upheaval of parental separation or divorce.
  • Adoption can strengthen the emotional bond that already exists between the stepparent and the child, establishing their legal family.
  • Without adoption, the child might not be able to inherit money from the stepparent in the event that the original parent passes away.
  • Having the same last name as the stepparent and his or her family may be advantageous for the child as well.
  • Additionally, it may qualify the child for benefits like health coverage, social security, or veteran’s compensation.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Washington

To adopt your stepchild in Washington you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.

Hire an Adoption Lawyer

Adopting a stepchild is a reasonably simple process that may be done without legal counsel in Washington, thus it is not legally required to do so. To aid with the adoption process, a lawyer should be considered, for a number of reasons.

  • A lawyer that focuses on adoption law will have a complete understanding of the rules and processes for adopting a stepchild in Washington, which can assist guarantee that the adoption process goes easily and that it is legally genuine.
  • In order to finish the adoption procedure, legal documents such as the petition for adoption and the other parent’s consent must be created. An attorney can help with this process.
  • If any legal concerns come up throughout the adoption process, an attorney can represent the adopting parent(s) in court and address them.
  • An attorney can offer direction and representation to help you negotiate these complicated situations if the biological parent is disputing the adoption or if there are any extenuating circumstances surrounding the adoption.
  • The biological parent’s legal rights, such as parental rights, should also be taken into account. If the adoption may be challenged, it is essential to have legal counsel to guarantee the adoption procedure is successful.

Even though it is not legally necessary to do so when adopting a stepchild in Washington, having legal counsel on your side can help ensure that everything goes smoothly and that the adoption is legitimate.

An attorney can offer legal expertise, draft paperwork, represent you in court, and guide you through tricky issues.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Washington.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Stepparents in Washington who want to adopt their stepchildren should contact their local courthouse and ask if they provide stepparent adoption court form packets. These packets, which contain the forms and instructions required to complete the adoption procedure, can be very helpful.

Necessary adoption court forms may also be available for download from the court’s website.

Before completing the court paperwork, the stepparent should carefully read the instructions and forms, as the forms may differ based on the county in which the stepparent resides.

A petition for adoption, a form requesting the other parent’s consent, and a form for the child’s birth certificate are frequently included in the paperwork.

Stepparents should be ready to submit additional paperwork to the court, including marriage and residence certificates, background checks, and possibly even a home study.

Stepparents must be ready to cover any court costs related to the adoption process when submitting the paperwork to the court.

Find a local Washington courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In Washington, a stepparent may purchase stepchild adoption court forms from a court form service if they want to adopt their stepchild.

Searching for “stepparent adoption forms” on the internet will give you a list of these services, which will offer the court forms and instructions required for the stepparent adoption procedure in Washington.

For stepparent adoption, these service providers often provide a thorough packet of forms and instructions suited to the rules and laws of the state of Washington.

They also provide a variety of forms, including petitions for adoption, consent forms, and birth certificate applications for the child.

It is significant to remember that, despite the fact that these services offer court forms, they cannot and will not offer legal advice.

They should not be relied upon for legal advice or representation as they are not a replacement for competent legal counsel.

The forms are meant to be used by people who are confident in navigating the court process and are not intimidated.

Anyone who can fill out a form and follow filing instructions can navigate the adoption process without legal counsel, providing the adoption is not contested by the biological parent.

Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Washington.

Adoption Process

When stepparents adopt their stepchildren in Washington, the adoption procedure normally entails a number of steps, including submitting a petition for adoption, concluding a home study and background check, gaining the biological parent’s agreement, and finalizing the adoption in court.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

The initial stage in the adoption process in Washington is for a stepparent to submit a petition for adoption to the court. A petition asks the court to approve the adoption and declare the stepparent to be the child’s legal parent.

The petition will normally include details such as the names, addresses, and ages of the biological parent, stepparent, and stepchild, in addition to the justifications for why the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

Information on the stepparent’s relationship with the child, their financial situation, and their capacity to meet the child’s needs will also be included.

A background check and other paperwork, including proof of marriage and residency, will also be requested of the stepparent. They must present a certified copy of their marriage license, proof of address and identity, and any other paperwork the court may demand.

The county where the child or stepparent resides should receive the petition for adoption. The court will then set a hearing date for the adoption case and notify all parties in writing of the hearing.

The court might also order the stepparent to finish a parenting course once the petition is filed, which will help them comprehend the moral and ethical ramifications of adoption.

Home Study and Background Check

Stepparents in Washington who want to adopt their stepchild must first complete a home study and background check.

A home study is a review of the stepparent’s household and personal circumstances. Typically, a social worker will visit the stepparent’s house, speak with the family members, and watch the stepparent and child interact with one another.

The family’s living and financial circumstances, as well as their capacity to meet the child’s requirements, will be examined by the social worker.

The stepparent’s background will also be investigated as part of the home study, including a look into their criminal record and any prior engagement with child protective services.

The home study’s goal is to make sure the child will be raised in a stable and secure environment.

The stepparent’s capacity to parent the child and meet their needs will also be assessed by the social worker.

The social worker will submit a written report to the court after the home study is finished that includes recommendations for the adoption.

Another critical phase of the adoption process is the background check.

Its goal is to make sure that the stepparent has no criminal record or history of working with child protective services that would disqualify them as a parent.

A criminal history check and a lookup of any prior involvement with child protective services are often included in background checks.

It’s crucial to remember that the court mandates that a professional social worker conduct the home study and background investigation.

The expense of the background check and home study will be paid for by the stepparent.

Consent of the Biological Parent

The biological parent’s approval is a crucial step in Washington’s stepparent adoption procedure. The adoption cannot take place without the biological parent’s approval.

The non-stepparent biological parent will typically be asked to sign a consent document stating their willingness to relinquish parental rights and for the stepparent to adopt the child.

The consent form must be signed in front of a notary public or in the presence of a court representative, and it will be added to the court file.

There might, however, be certain exclusions to this rule. The biological parent’s consent might not be necessary, for instance, if they have abandoned the child or if the court has terminated their parental rights for another cause, such as abuse or neglect.

Even if the biological parent refuses to agree, the stepparent may still be able to adopt the child if they can convince the court that the biological parent abandoned the child or that their parental rights were terminated.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In Washington, a crucial step in the adoption process for stepparents is the termination of the biological parent’s rights. In order for the stepparent to take on legal custody of the child and be granted the same rights and obligations as a biological parent, this step is required.

A petition for the termination of parental rights is normally filed to start the process of removing the biological parent’s rights.

The stepparent, the child’s other biological parent, or the child’s legal guardian may file this petition on the child’s behalf.

After the court has considered the petition, a hearing date will be set.

The biological parent’s capacity to meet the child’s needs will be a factor in the court’s decision at the hearing, along with any prior instances of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

When making its decision, the court may also take the child’s best interests into account.

The tie between the biological parent and the child will be legally severed if the court decides to end the biological parent’s rights by issuing a final order.

The adoption procedure can then be started by the stepparent.

It’s crucial to remember that terminating a biological parent’s rights is a significant decision that shouldn’t be made hastily.

All of the child’s legal rights and obligations will be relinquished by the biological parent, and it’s possible that they won’t be able to get them back in the future.

Finalization of the Adoption

In Washington, finalizing the adoption is the last stage in the adoption process for stepparents. At this stage, the adoption is formally approved by the court, making the stepparent the child’s legal parent.

A petition for adoption is normally filed to start the finalization process. After the court has considered the petition, a hearing date will be set.

The court will examine the adoption documents at the hearing to make sure all conditions have been satisfied.

To confirm that the adoption is in the child’s best interests, the court may additionally question the child, the stepparent, and the other biological parent.

A final order of adoption will be granted if the court finds that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

The child will officially adopt the stepparent’s last name and the order will formally recognize the stepparent as the child’s parent.

The stepparent will have the same obligations and rights as a biological parent after the adoption is legally finalized.

This involves the obligation to meet the child’s needs as well as the right to decide the child’s education, medical treatment, and religious upbringing.

Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.

Should I Adopt My Stepchild?

A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, should I adopt my stepchild?

You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.

If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge.

It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.

It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.

At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward.

Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.

If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild.

Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.

Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.

After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.

No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.

Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?

It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?

You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.

You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Washington

Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.

If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit Washington Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.

Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.

Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.

You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.

Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.

Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent

Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.

How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.

There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.

If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.

When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations.

Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.

What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption?

States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child. However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.

States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.

A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?

Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their home? Many things can deem a parent unfit.

For a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support in a very long time, usually a year.

If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent, after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.

However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.

Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them

Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to permit to be adopted.

Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.

I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!

And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.

And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.

What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in Washington?

A social worker or counselor’s report on whether a family is approved to adopt a child is known as a home study.

It entails interviews with potential adoptive parents as well as a background and home examination.

Every state requires a home study to adopt a child, but the particular criteria vary depending on your state and the type of adoption you’re contemplating.

In Washington, to adopt the child of your spouse, only a limited home study is required. But for all other adoptions, a more complete home study is necessary. 

If the “child” has reached the age of 18, however, there is no need for a home study because the individual being adopted is no longer considered a child.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Washington?

A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Washington. Younger children are not required to give their consent.

You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.

Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot.

Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.

Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?

Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to. Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.

Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in Washington?

Under citation Rev. Code § 26.33.160, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Washington involves the following.

Consent to an adoption shall be required of the following:

  • The parents and any alleged father of a child under the age of 18

The consent of an alleged father, birth parent, or parent may be dispensed with if the court finds that the proposed adoption is in the best interests of the child, and the alleged father, birth parent, or parent:

  • Has been found guilty of rape or incest where the child was the victim of the rape or incest
  • Has been found guilty of rape or incest where the other parent of the child was the victim of the rape or incest and the child was conceived as a result of the rape or incest

Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.